Stone-faced and dark-eyed, Özge spends blurry, rainy nights hauling passengers in her cab through the gritty streets of Vienna, silently suffering indignities hurled her way by backseat drunkards, misogynists, and racists.
By day, she channels an endless font of rage into crushing cocky opponents twice her size at the Thai kickboxing gym where she trains.
After a particularly awful day of driving and boxing, our Turkish-born protagonist witnesses a cruelly grotesque murder scene through her bathroom window and finds herself the next target of an Islamic fundamentalist serial killer.
Thrust into the uncomfortable position of asking for help, she finds scarce respite or refuge with her estranged family, ex-lover, and an indifferent Viennese police force.
No stranger to violence, Özge is anything but a victim: Armed with lethal fists, elbows, and knees, she’s ready for the ensuing cat-and-mouse fight for her life against a foe who represents everything wrong in her life and in this world.
When the murderer’s blade cuts too close and too deep in his relentless pursuit, her resolve is galvanized: She will kill him.
Even if the premise sounds sleazy or familiar, this gripping action thriller from Austrian Oscar-winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The Counterfeiters”) (honorable mention to 2000’s creeptacular “Anatomie”) is a stylish, breakneck-paced, and welcome addition to hard-boiled pulp noir, with giallo flair.
While minimizing the par for the course voyeuristic violence known to the genre, “Cold Hell” refreshingly maximizes lady-led patriarchy-smashing bloodsport and vengeance, building up to an explosive, satisfying finale.
“Cold Hell” delivers a film that’s three parts brutality & action and one part sociopolitical commentary, capturing the alienation of the European Muslim experience while cleverly pitting fundamentalist extremism against the female-led backlash.
Several of the film’s strongest moments revolve around the poignancy of asking for and receiving help in all its unexpected guises, but mostly this is the story of one woman taking on the world’s inequities, one punch at a time. It’s awesome. (Nicole McControversy)
West Coast Premiere
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Country: Germany, Austria
Runtime: 92 minutes
Free Screening in the Shudder Theatre @Egyptian
Shudder Theatre @Egyptian